On Saturday, February 11, 2017, Lake Forest College Director of Athletics and Senior Advisor to the President Jackie Slaats was recognized during halftime of the women’s basketball game against Cornell College for devoting 30 years of service to the College. Several alumni returned to campus to honor her achievements and you can too by clicking here to make a small gift of $30, $1 for each year of service.
Lake Forest College welcomed Jackie Slaats in 1986 as the Head Women’s Basketball and Volleyball Coach. At the time when she was hired, current head handball coach Mike Dau served as the Athletic Director. Coach Dau remembers the day when Jackie visited the College for her interview.
“I had already interviewed two other candidates, neither of which impressed me. When Jackie stepped across the threshold without even saying a word, I knew not only were we going to offer the position, but I thought to myself I don’t think we’ll keep her for very long.”
Coach Dau continued, “When she took the position, she elevated our women’s basketball and volleyball programs to a level they had never been before. With excellent leadership skills, she was highly organized and disciplined, all the elements that are required of a successful coach. And her relationship with her peers was outstanding.”
Coach Slaats boasted a 386-133 overall record with six conference championships in women’s basketball, ranking her among the top 20 in NCAA Division III with a .743 career winning percentage. As the head coach for volleyball, she coached the team to a 100-84 record in six seasons.
Coach Slaats was appointed the College’s Director of Athletics in 1992 and later added the role of Senior Advisor to the President in 2008, when she resigned her coaching position after 22 successful coaching years.
As a Senior Advisor, Jackie works alongside Lake Forest College President Stephen Schutt who has held this position since 2001. “Jackie has been one of my closest colleagues throughout my years at the College, and I’ve been privileged to work with her. Her talent, leadership and dedication to the College are unsurpassed, and our remarkable success in athletics is due to her strong, strategic direction.
President Schutt continues, “Moreover, the College’s senior staff and I rely on Jackie’s good judgment in a host of areas beyond athletics, and I routinely seek her input before making any important decision. For our impressive win-loss record, game-changing Sports and Recreation Center, alumni achievements and campus-wide spirit of optimism, the entire College community owes Jackie a debt of gratitude. I am proud and grateful that she is my colleague and friend.”
Since holding the administrative role, Jackie's leadership and strong desire to uphold a motto she established as Director of Athletics, “Lake Forest College: A Tradition of Excellence,” can be seen through several initiatives designed to improve the experience for student-athletes and build spirit surrounding Forester Athletics.
These initiatives include the $17 million renovation of the Sports and Recreation Center in 2011, which enabled the College to rank 18th in the “best athletic facilities” category by the Princeton Review in 2016. Farwell Field, the home of Forester football and soccer, was renovated in 2004, and the hockey rink in 2014 and 2016. Further, Jackie also fronted the addition of seven varsity sports to the roster including men’s and women’s cross country, women’s hockey, men’s and women’s golf, and most recently, men’s and women’s distance track.
In addition to the athletic transformations listed above, Jackie also spearheaded the inception of the F.A.N. Club (Forester Athletic Network), the College’s athletics booster club, and the Forester Game Plan, a four-year program that seeks to prepare student-athletes for life after Lake Forest. The Forester Game Plan is a collaborative effort of the athletic department, Career Advancement Center, and Forester Network that includes faculty, staff, alumni, family, and friends of the College.
Joe Chmura, a prominent leader in the Forester Game Plan, commented that “Jackie has always had a strong commitment to the success of her athletes, not only on the field but also as people who leave with a future that is bright, one they can be proud of. Through Jackie’s efforts and partnership with the Career Advancement Center and her coaches, the Forester Game Plan was created. The result is a program where athletes can grow and develop skills and strengths to be able to compete in the world after leaving Lake Forest” He goes on to say that “Jackie has built more than that. She has established a loyal and dedicated group who as alumni continue to give back. It has become a platform that draws new athletes to Lake Forest to continue the tradition she began.”
These initiatives only brush the surface of leadership and involvement Jackie has invested in the College. She has also led several projects to promote school spirit and community engagement. These projects include the creation of Forester Fests, Forester Fridays, annual athletic and alumni contests/events, and partnerships with several local community organizations.
Jackies' achievements have earned her a spot in a handful of Athletic Hall of Fames. She was inducted into the Lake Forest College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008, the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2012, and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014.
Those who work closely with Jackie often describe her as a woman who holds a tireless work ethic, has an unwavering love for the College, makes decisions with the best interests of her team in mind, and genuinely cares about the needs of others. For all these reasons and many more, Jackie has undoubtedly earned the respect from everyone who knows her.
One individual who has worked closely with Jackie for four years is Assistant Athletic Director Blake Theisen. Theisen noted that, “I consider Jackie a mentor and have learned countless important lessons under her direction for the past four years. She truly cares about each and every person on our staff and always goes above and beyond to make people feel special. Having a chance to surprise Jackie for her 30 years of service to the College last month was very memorable and meaningful and the tremendous support the event had was a nice way to show her how much she is appreciated by the entire Forester Family.”
Please help the Lake Forest College athletic department in congratulating Jackie Slaats for thirty years of service to the College. We are beyond thankful for her support, leadership, and direction!
In order to view a photo gallery from the ceremony on Saturday, February 11, click here. Also, please select here to recognize the Tradition of Excellence Jackie Slaats has built with a small donation of $30 in honor of her 30 years of service.